No. 10 Mountaineers blast No. 19 Hoyas
Da'Sean Butler kept the emotions of his final home game in check on the court, then let the tears flow afterward.
Butler scored 22 points and No. 10 West Virginia beat No. 19 Georgetown 81-68 on Monday night, clinching a double bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
West Virginia (23-6, 12-5) led by as many as 27 points early in the second half and Georgetown, playing without ill leading scorer Austin Freeman, couldn't catch up. The free fall continues for the Hoyas (19-9, 9-8), who were ranked No. 7 three weeks ago and have lost four of five.
Before the game, Butler posed for photos with fans while trying to keep his mind on the task at hand.
He was introduced last among West Virginia's three seniors before the game and received the loudest ovation. He has 1,936 points and will end up in third place on the school's career scoring list behind Jerry West (2,309) and Hot Rod Hundley (2,180).
"I definitely wanted to win on my senior night against a good team like them," Butler said, his voice cracking. "When I was taken out at the end of the game, it just kind of hit me, like I'm not playing here anymore and it just took off from there. I thought about everything and I had every emotion possible. Happy, sad, scared -- just getting ready to grow up. You never know what's out there."
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins recalled last year's home finale when second-leading scorer Alex Ruoff was held scoreless in his final game at The Coliseum and the Mountaineers lost to Louisville. Huggins said that played a part in Butler playing on an even keel.
Still, it was difficult -- for both coach and player.
"Da' said he wasn't going to let it get to him and he didn't," Huggins said. "I was trying like crazy not to let it get to me. I didn't want to be the reason that he became emotional, but it was hard. It was really, really hard."
Butler has the school record with 100 games scoring in double figures. He entered the game in a 9-of-34 shooting slump that he attributed in part to his part-time role of point guard.
"I'm glad he's graduating," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Da'Sean is one of those players that can do a lot of different things on the basketball court. From the outside looking in, it appears that he's a leader when you see the way he talks to the players during timeouts and pulls them aside. His talent and his skill level is special."
Devin Ebanks added 15 points, Kevin Jones scored 14 and Darryl Bryant had 11 for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers shot 43 percent (24 of 56) from the field, their 18th straight game under 50 percent. The difference came at the free-throw line, where the Mountaineers outscored Georgetown 27-14.
West Virginia got 24 points off 20 turnovers and picked apart the Hoyas with a tenacious defense and up-tempo transition offense.
"It was their pressure," said Greg Monroe, who led Georgetown with 22 points and nine rebounds. "That turned into turnovers and we weren't doing the things that we could control."
Freeman, who is averaging 17 points per game and is Georgetown's top 3-point shooter, is still recovering from stomach flu that limited him to five points in only 23 minutes in a loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.
"We missed every part of his presence -- not just his points, but his composure," Thompson said.
Hollis Thompson started in Freeman's place for the second straight game but was held to three points.
Jones scored six points during West Virginia's 10-0 run to start the second half that pushed the lead to 53-26 with 16:51 remaining.
Chris Wright, Georgetown's third-leading scorer at 13.9 points, helped soften the loss of Freeman, scoring 10 of his 21 points in a 3:30 span and the Hoyas used runs of 9-0 and 8-0 in the second half to whittle the deficit to 62-53 with 5:55 left.
West Virginia went without a field goal for more than 5 minutes and the sellout crowd grew restless, well aware of the Mountaineers' propensity to allow opponents to come back from big deficits several times this season.
Butler grabbed a deflected pass and made a layin with 3:37 left and West Virginia's lead never fell below double digits again.
West Virginia went ahead to stay 4 minutes into the game. Butler scored nine points during a 16-8 run and the Mountaineers led by as many as 22 points in the half.
West Virginia evened its record against ranked opponents to 4-4 this season.
Both teams finish the regular season on Saturday. West Virginia plays at No. 9 Villanova on Saturday, while the Hoyas, who could fall out of the top half of the 16-team conference, head home to face Cincinnati.